[This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials related to environmental issues in the Middle East. It does not reflect the views of the Environment Page of Jadaliyya.]
Green energy revolution could unite the Middle East - and the world Middle East Monitor (5 May 2021)
This op-ed describes how climate change policy supporting renewable energy may trigger new international tensions with MENA countries, and how development of renewable resources in the region may combat both climate change and political insecurity.
Water scarcity in the Middle East: Beyond an environmental risk Observer Research Foundation (6 May 2021)
Increasing cross-border water issues, urban water scarcity, and related problems exacerbated by climate change may contribute to instability in the region.
قوس القزح.. العبور من النار والماء في تراث المشرق العربي Raseef22 (11 May 2021)
This essay details the mythological, cultural, and etymological history and significance of rainbows in ancient Levantine and Arab cultures.
The history of drought in the Anatolian peninsula in the 16th and 17th centuries may provide lessons for how climate change affects the region today.
Towards Better Protecting the Environment in Armed Conflict New Security Beat (10 May 2021)
International law must be better mobilized to protect and rehabilitate the environment in ongoing conflicts such as the war in Yemen.
UAE asks to host 2023 UN climate change conference Reuters (23 May 2021)
The UAE has asked to host the Conference of the Parties (COP) international conference on climate change, touting its investment in renewable energy.
Mysterious airbase being built on volcanic island off Yemen The Guardian (25 May 2021)
Yemeni officials complain that the UAE might be building a secret air runway on a small island in the Bab al-Mandeb strait, as yet officialy unclaimed by any country. Military control of the island would allow the controller to easily launch military attacks on Yemen as well as potentially control shipping routes in the area.
Oman plans to build world’s largest green hydrogen plant The Guardian (27 May 2021)
An international consortium of companies has launched a $30 billion “green hydrogen” plant in Oman, a fuel source to replace fossil fuels that does not emit carbon.
Green hydrogen: The Gulf's next big fuel - or a load of hot air? Middle East Eye (8 June 2021)
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf countries have increasingly transitioned to hydrogen extraction as a cleaner energy source than oil and gas. However, the long term economic possibilities of transition are uncertain as well as the practicalities of production and export.
Saudi Arabia bans foreigners from hajj over Covid concerns The Guardian (12 June 2021)
Only 60,000 Saudis, fully vaccinated, were allowed to participate in this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca due to concerns over COVID-19.
Gulf states show ‘limited’ progress kicking oil & gas dependency Al Jazeera (21 June 2021)
Credit rating agency Moody’s has said that Gulf economies have not sufficiently diversified their revenue streams, over relying on carbon fuels with almost no domestic taxation or other alternative revenue streams.
Climate change decimating Yemen's bee farms Middle East Monitor (21 June 2021)
Sidr honey, a Yemeni heritage product, has been threatened by changing and increased rainfall patterns and increased temperature due to climate change. Changing rainfall patterns has shifted the flowering season of the jujube tree and wiping out entire seasons of crops; beekeepers are suffering economically in an already precarious economy due to the ongoing war.
قصة المصريين وطبق الفول Raseef 22 (7 May 2021)
This personal essay reflects on the different food cultures and preparations of foul (fava beans) across Egypt’s urban and rural communities.
Suez Canal starts work to extend double lane after Ever Given grounding The Guardian (16 May 2021)
After the Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for six days in March, Egypt has started dredging a new two-way traffic lane to try to prevent future similar incidents.
Egyptian concerns grow amid Ethiopia’s plan to build dozens of dams Al-Monitor (9 June 2021)
With tensions already high between Egypt and Ethiopia over Ethiopia’s plans for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the announcement by the Ethiopian prime minister of plans to build more than 100 small and medium dams in the coming year lead to denouncements from Egypitan officials.
From bamboo to barbecues: the cargo caught up in Ever Given legal battle The Guardian (11 June 2021)
The cargo ship Ever Given, which blocked the Suez Canal for days in March, has not yet been allowed to set sail as Egypt has impounded it until the owners pay for the costs mounted by the blockage. The ship contains time-sensitive cargo that risk expiration, including fresh produce.
Gourmet: How a high-end food retailer is helping reshape Egypt’s supermarket industry Mada Masr (17 June 2021)
New “full service” or “high end” supermarkets, carrying a variety of imported goods and ready-to-eat meals, have proliferated in Egypt despite setbacks due to economic challenges post-2011. The growth of such markets (which still make up a relatively small portion of Egyptians’ food purchase) demonstrates the changing desire of upper-class consumers.
Heliopolis residents resist home demolitions, forced relocation for road expansion project Mada Masr (20 June 2021)
Residents of the Heliopolis neighborhood of Cairo say they will file a lawsuit against the plans to build a new road to the administrative capital through their homes. Residents say they have paperwork showing ownership of their homes, while the state claims it owns the buildings and the residents are squatters.
He returned to Iran to help save its environment. He had to flee Reuters (27 April 2021)
A water and climate scientist, appointed deputy environment minister after years abroad, has been in exile from Iran and spent months in hiding in recent years due to fears of detention from the current government. His predicament raises the larger issue of the loss of climate and environmental scientists from countries in the Global South due to struggles around resource funding and political climates.
Saffron gang accused of passing off Iranian spice as prized Spanish variety The Guardian (7 May 2021)
Seventeen people were arrested and accused of bulking up Iranian saffron with other flower detritus, and passing it off as the more expensive Spanish variety.
Iran's groundwater depletion is reaching crisis levels Science Daily (18 May 2021)
A new peer reviewed article says that Iranian aquifers are under heavy demand from industrial agriculture, contributing to land subsidence and fears of future water scarcity.
Iran’s Biggest Problem Is Water Foreign Policy (24 May 2021)
Despite investment in desalination, Iran remains water stressed, and opportunities for cross-border environmental diplomacy may help with political and environmental issues in the region.
Water wars on the horizon in Iran Asia Times (27 May 2021)
A major drought, the largest in decades, looms in Iran, and unregulated use by farmers of water from reservoirs exacerbates the scarcity, which experts fear will lead to unrest and conflict over water resources.
Fires Sink Iran’s Largest Warship and Ravage Big Refinery The New York Times (2 June 2021)
Fires at a Tehran refinery and a warship led Iran to accuse Israel of attacks.
Iran's Attacks on the Environment Iran Focus (17 June 2021)
Iran faces major issues with access to potable drinking water, with many households relying on hand-carrying water long distances.
Deadly traffic: the fuel drivers caught up in Pakistan-Iran border tensions The Guardian (22 June 2021)
Fuel smugglers have regularly brought fuel from Iran into Balochistan, but recent Pakistani government crackdowns on border crossings, intensified border surveillance, fencing, and violence from Iranian border guards have left many who rely on fuel transport for their livelihoods wondering how they might survive.
Iraq's Kurdish farmers in anguish as drought kills harvest season Middle East Eye (24 April 2021)
A precipitous decline in rainfall--coming off of multiple years of existing drought--has led farmers in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan to fear for a failed wheat harvest, and even worse consequences in the future if rivers run dry.
Iraq: Ancient Mesopotamian marshes threatened by sewage Al Jazeera (5 May 2021)
Environmentalists and locals in Iraq’s Chibaish marshes decry the pumping of sewage directly into the marshes, leading to ecological degradation and a loss of income from tourism due to the putrid smell.
In Iraq's iconic marshlands, a quest for endangered otters AP News (27 May 2021)
Otters are an important indicator species for the health of southern Iraq’s wetlands. Once feared extinct, they are still rare and under threat from drought and fishing practices which use electric pulses to stun underwater.
No water, no jobs: ISIL survivors struggle in northern Iraq Al Jazeera (29 May 2021)
Christians in northern Iraq have returned to their ancestral towns after the ISIL occupation. But the ongoing drought threatens farmers’ livelihoods, and general economic insecurity lead many Assyrian Christians to not return to their homes and seek jobs elsewhere.
Vet who fled Saddam Hussein draws up groundbreaking Kurdistan animals rights bill The Guardian (10 June 2021)
Autonomous Kurdistan is considering its first animal rights bill, which would levy fines against abuses and regulate animal slaughter, hunting, zoos, and more.UNESCO Mosul Competition Design Prompts Outcry The New York Times (27 June 2021)
The Iraqi architects’ union criticized the winning design to restore the old city of Mosul, saying that the UAE-funded design imports architectural and landscape elements from the Gulf that are foreign to Iraq’s cultural heritage of the built environment.
Dead fish in 'abnormal quantities' wash up in Lebanon's Qaraoun lake Middle East Eye (1 May 2021) and Hecatomb of carp in Lake Qaraoun: Multiple scenarios, but no clear explanation L’Orient Today (5 May 2021)
Tons of fish have appeared floating dead on a lake on the Litani River, and while no cause has been clearly established, environmentalists point to long standing pollution issues with sewage and algae blooms in the river. The fish pose a public health problem as, in the midst of Lebanon’s ongoing currency and food crisis, some have been illegally collecting them and selling them as healthy fish.
Most Syrians and Lebanese Can No Longer Afford Baklava and Barazek Raseef 22 (3 May 2021)
The currency crisis and economic struggles in both Syria and Lebanon have hit traditional sweet sellers, who detail how this Ramadan has seen lower sales and higher costs for traditional Ramadan desserts that are usually central to the holiday.
No Power Means No Water: Authorities Warn of an Impending Crisis L’Orient Today (9 June 2021)
Electricity shortages from Lebanon’s fuel crisis have also caused water shortages as water pumps go out of operation when blackouts occur.
Mount Hermon: What’s Next for Lebanon’s Newest Nature Reserve Al Rawiya Magazine
Jabal al-Cheikh (Mount Hermon) could be a model for sustainable development in Lebanon, allowing for recreational use and agricultural heritage use while still holding off unfettered urban sprawl. However, current nature reserve policies do not take into account the need to support sustainable human settlement in the area.
Borj Essalhi: The High Costs of Wind Turbines Inkyfada (20 April 2021)
A wind power plant was built in 2000 outside of a small Tunisian village, but the villagers themselves languish without electricity multiple times a year. Decades after the plant was built, villagers continue to protest for better electricity and against numerous harms they claim the turbines have brought to their area, including hazardous waste from wind turbines that have fallen over.
Climate Change: Morocco to Introduce Environment Code Morocco World News (4 May 2021)
Morocco’s Ministry of Environment announced that they would be compiling all relevant environmental codes into one national environmental code.
Italian Waste, Part 2: The New Protagonists From Italy Inkyfada (7 May 2021)
The vast corruption scandal that had Tunisian companies disposing of waste smuggled in from Italy continues to be uncovered, with financial ties from multiple Italian companies who may also be tied to waste smuggling in Bulgaria. Meanwhile, multiple containers of waste still languish at Tunisian ports.
Morocco eyes green hydrogen exports with IRENA renewables collaboration S&P Global (14 June 2021)
Morocco’s Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Environment has announced a partnership with the Abu Dhabi-based IRENA renewable energy agency to conduct green hydrogen research and encourage private sector investment in renewables.
How one project in Morocco is teaching women to harness the sun’s energy The Independent (19 June 2021)
An internationally funded project with local partners aims to start women’s energy cooperatives to build and distribute solar ovens for household cooking.
Nearly 53% of lands in Tunisia vulnerable to very high degree of desertification (Ministry) Tunis Afrique Presse (19 June 2021)
On the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, Tunisia’s Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment announced a high amount of land vulnerable to desertification and goals under a national plan to combat desertification by 2030.
Pollution threatens maritime environment in Bizerte despite efforts Tunis Afrique Presse (22 June 2021)
Shipwrecks, industrial factory pollution, and wastewater continue to pollute the port and lagoon in northern Tunisia, despite cleanup efforts.
Morocco, EU to work together towards green energy transition The North Africa Post (29 June 2021)
The EU and Morocco announced joint efforts to cooperate to reach Paris Accord commitments and other environmental goals.
Palestine Israel and Jordan
The Palestine Digital Activism Forum brought together multiple map and cartography digitization projects aiming to offer digital media looks at historic Palestine and the Nakba.
Jordan facing 'one of the most severe' droughts in its history Al Jazeera (6 May 2021)
Jordan, already noted as one of the most water-deficient countries in the world, is facing an historic drought affecting crop irrigation and drinking water supplies.
Human waste spills on to Gaza’s blacked-out streets as crisis looms The Guardian (16 May 2021)
Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip led to multiple acute environmental and health emergencies, including bursting of sewage pipes, disruptions to drinking water supplies, stoppage of feed deliveries for livestock, electricity outages affecting hospitals, and concerns of increased COVID-19 spread due to people fleeing their homes and congregating in shelters.
Israeli Forces Uproot Dozens of Olive Trees near Qalqilyia The Palestine Chronicle (31 May 2021)
A Palestinian landowner reports Israeli forces razed about 30 dunums of his agricultural land.
Palestine: agricultural sector loses $204 million due to Israeli offensive against Gaza Middle East Monitor (3 June 2021)
The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture detailed the extent of losses as Israel’s May bombardment of the Gaza strip destroyed acres of crops, disrupted water supplies, and prevented farmers from reaching their fields to work.
A New Israeli Government Could Mean Help for Neglected Bedouin Villages The New York Times (10 June 2021)
The inclusion of a Palesitnian party in the government coalition for the first time brings hope but also cynicism to Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel, who face infrastructural neglect due to the lack of recognition for their villages as official municipalities.
The Emirati oil deal that has infuriated Israeli environmentalists Reuters (14 June 2021)
After Israel-UAE normalization, plans for a land pipeline to transport oil into Israel and an increase of oil tankers into the sensitive coral reef area of the Red Sea has drawn criticism from environmental groups.
Dear PETA, Israel's animal rights record leaves a lot to be desired Middle East Monitor (15 June 2021)
After PETA celebrated Israel for being the first country to ban fur sales, this op-ed points out how Israeli military attacks against Palestinians and the Gaza Strip in particular has resulted in the harming of animals.
Fight Over a Gentle Stream Distills Israel’s Political Divide The New York Times (21 June 2021)
Struggles continue between residents of a largely Ashkenazi, middle class kibbutz which has closed off public access to the swimmable stream running through the kibbutz, and predominantly working class Ashkenazi residents of nearby towns advocating for public use of the waterway.
Israel says Gaza farmers must remove crowns from tomatoes if they want to export them Middle East Eye (23 June 2021)
Israel has implemented a new requirement Gaza’s farmers remove the green sepal “crown” from all fresh tomatoes for them to be allowed to be exported to the West Bank, which would cause the tomatoes to rot faster.
As the level of the Euphrates River drops, Syrian civilians on its banks pay the price Syria Direct (9 May 2021)
The Euphrates reservoir has reached its lowest levels since 2013, causing disruptions to hydroelectricity production and impacting irrigation levels in Raqqa in northern Syria.
Refugee camps can wreak enormous environmental damages – should source countries be liable for them? The Conversation (13 May 2021)
This op-ed advocates for countries receiving refugees, such as Syrian refugees, to be allowed to sue the “sending country” for the alleged negative environmental impacts of refugee camps on the host country.
Syrian government calls on Turkey to release Euphrates water Al-Monitor (14 May 2021)
Low water levels in the Euphrates river has the Syrian and Turkish governments feuding over water releases.
Syria’s Surprising Solar Boom: Sunlight Powers the Night in Rebel Idlib The New York Times (15 May 2021)
Solar panels have emerged as an unlikely reliable source of energy in northwestern Syria as the grid remains unstable due to ongoing war and high fuel prices made generators unreachable for many.
Some Environmentalists See Rural Syria as Fertile Ground for Biogas Production Voice of America (26 May 2021)
The siege of Ghouta led residents to design a biogas digester as an alternative fuel system, leading to hope similar projects could be carried out in other parts of Syria.
Northeast Syria’s farmers brace for a catastrophic harvest amidst a severe water crisis Syria Direct (26 May 2021)
Severe drought in the Raqqa province, combined with high fertilizer prices and labor shortages, threatens wheat and barley farmers’ livelihoods.
Sowing fear, burning crops: The latest regime offensive terrorizes farmers in northwest Syria Syria Direct (16 June 2021)
Pro-Assad forces have carried out a new bombing campaign in Idlib, coinciding with harvest season. Farmers who go to work in their fields are at direct risk of attacks.
Turkey becomes Europe's dumping ground for illegal plastic waste Middle East Eye (17 May 2021)
A Greenpeace investigation revealed the UK and Germany have illegally exported non-recyclable plastic to Turkey, which ends up polluting shorelines or being burned.
Turkey bans most plastic imports as EU trash found dumped on roadsides Reuters (20 May 2021)
After already banning mixed plastic imports, Turkey announced it would ban the importation of polyethylene plastic waste from the EU, mostly coming from the UK and Germany.
Turkey accused of 'stealing' trees in Iraqi Kurdistan logging campaign Middle East Eye (6 June 2021)
Kurdish officials have accused Turkish forces of carrying out a deforestation and logging campaign in Kurdistan.
'Sea snot' on Turkey's shores alarms residents Al Jazeera (6 June 2021)
“Marine mucilage,” discharged by marine organisms, has overtaken the Marmara, Black, and Aegan Seas, which environmentalists say is caused by industrial pollution and rising water temperatures due to climate change.
Climate change ‘sea snot’ killing Turkey’s Marmara Sea Al Jazeera (7 June 2021)
An extreme bloom of marine mucilage has led to mass fish deaths in the Marmara Sea, threatening fishermens’ livelihoods and disrupting delicate ecosystems.
Turkey launches ‘sea snot’ clean-up to save Sea of Marmara Reuters (9 June 2021)
The Turkish government announced a major cleanup effort of the marine mucilage bloom, also announcing they would make the Sea of Marmara a protected area by the end of 2021.
The quarry threatening Turkey's pristine 'Paradise Valley' Al Jazeera (17 June 2021)
Villagers in an agricultural region on the Black Sea are frustrated by the government’s opening of a stone quarry nearby to supply stone to build a new port. Local activists have been fighting against the government’s expropriation of land to build a new road to the quarry.
Erdogan takes first step in controversial Istanbul canal project Al Jazeera (26 June 2021)
Prime Minister Erdogan broke ground on a new canal to link the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, despite environmentalists’ concerns that ecological damage could occur from connecting the two waterways, exacerbate earthquake damage risk, and be economically harmful due to its high cost.